Author(s): Rosemary Wells
Illustrator/Photographer: Brian Selznick
Publisher and Year: Hyperion Books for Children, 2002
Number of pages: 63
Tags/Themes: Adventure, Chapter Book, Social Science, Historical fiction, 4-5, 6-8, Meagan DeSalvo
Genre: Historical Fiction
Descriptive Annotation: Set during the Dust Bowl of the 1930s, this four chapter book is about a family who is forced to change its life due to the dust. Unlike many other portrayals, Wing Walker has a positive spin. The main character Reuben has a great fear of flying and yet he is the winner of a trip in one of the show planes. By going up into the plane, Reuben becomes the bravest boy out there according to his family. Shortly afterwards, the Dust Bowl slowly but surely hits the family. The father leaves his job as a dance teacher and the mother loses her job as a cook. Eventually the family finds a job in Minnesota so the family migrates itself from Oklahoma to Minnesota where the father is a wing walker. For this job, the family travels with the carnival through the Midwest while the father performs each time on the wing of the airplane. During the time with the carnival, Reuben is exposed to many different types of people who he had previously held poor opinions about. He meets a Black man, a tattooed woman, and more carnival people and becomes friends with them. He learns about the different people and grows from the experience. His eyes are opened to the rest of society. At the very end, Reuben performs on the wing with his father up in the air and is no longer afraid.
Linguistic and Cultural Diversity Analysis: America in the 1930s was still not a country of equality for Black people. Reuben is able to grow through the story after he meets the different people in the carnival. He no longer feels the same prejudiced thoughts as before. Students can examine how Reuben changed from the beginning of the story to the end through his experiences.
Other Information: This book is an easy read and does not take more than thirty minutes for an adult to read. It is both insightful and educative into a normal life in the 30s. While not all the pages have pictures on them, the pictures that are present provide a visual representation into the lifestyle. Before reading the book, students could look through the pictures to get a sense of life back then. It might also be a good idea to pre-teach the Dust Bowl and what a wing walker did.